Slide Rock was one of those waterfalling excursions that probably stretched the definition of what a waterfall was in our experience. It was really a series of small cascades (the tallest one was probably no more than 10-15ft) on Oak Creek surrounded by the signature red rocks that were typical of the neighboring Sedona just to the south. But it was this contrast between the red rocks and cliffs against the refreshing waters of Oak Creek that gave this place its scenic allure. On top of that, there were numerous areas along Oak Creek amongst these cascades that made for one of the most fun natural swimming holes to be found anywhere in the United States. The fun culminated in the namesake section where a series of cascades (pictured at the top of this page) allowed people to slide their way down to a deep pool going from one cascade to another in succession. Even our daughter found a spot where she could enjoy playing in the water making me realize that this was definitely one of those rare places where people of all ages could come and enjoy this miracle of Nature. Given all these factors working for the Slide Rock State Park, I had no problems including this entry on the website despite there not being an obvious drop that would befit the classic definition of a bonafide waterfall.
Our visit began from a very busy parking lot (see directions below) surrounded by tall red cliffs. Given the height of these cliffs, it was clear that Oak Creek had much to do with carving out the deep canyon in which the Slide Rock State Park was located. We then walked on a paved path past some signage (saying that large-looking water snakes inhabiting this area were not poisonous and should not be killed) then onto a more open paved path where there were relics of old cabins, a restroom facility, and some shops. At the far end of this paved walkway, there were more historical buildings before the path veered right past some interpretive signage and down some steps leading to the banks of Oak Creek. This section of the walk (from the parking area to the end of the concrete) alone was probably on the order of a quarter-mile long each way.
It was down at the banks of Oak Creek that the path was now pretty much red-rock scrambling on wide ledges on the left side of Oak Creek. This was where we now had our pick of where along the creek we wanted to relax or play at. The lowermost sections of the creek (closer to the highway bridge) contained some attractive cascades. That said, there were far fewer people down here as the more kid-friendly and happening parts of Oak Creek were further upstream. Roughly another 5- to 10-minute walk upstream was where the majority of the visitors were gathered as there was a bridge leading to a real calm part of Oak Creek as well as access to a spot where it was possible to do a short cliff jump into a deep part of Oak Creek. Just upstream from this deep section was the namesake Slide Rock, where people sat and scooted their way down the series of waterfalls from the top to the deeper waters below.
Further upstream of the Slide Rock, Oak Creek mostly calmed down and the crowds thinned out some more while the hiking became a little rougher with higher concentrations of cacti. There was a short cascade that served as my turnaround point. Even though the overall round-trip distance of the hiking was on the order of 0.8 miles (probably taking us around 30 minutes or less on the walking alone), it was very easy to spend more time here just enjoying the fun ambience and feeling refreshed from the cold waters of Oak Creek offsetting the desert heat of this part of Arizona. Indeed, we wound up spending around 90 minutes away from the car, and our daughter certainly wasn't eager to leave.
The nearest towns or cities to Slide Rock State Park was Flagstaff and Sedona. We'll first describe the driving route from Flagstaff, then the more straightforward route from Sedona.
From Flagstaff, we left the I-40 and headed south on the I-17. After about 2 miles along the I-17 from the interchange, we then took the exit 337 for Hwy 89A towards Sedona on the right. Following the signs towards Sedona, we took the first exit of the first roundabout, and then we took the third exit of the next roundabout. From there, we followed the Hwy 89A south for the next 17 miles or so before encountering the signed turnoff on the right for Slide Rock State Park.
The parking costed us $10 for our vehicle, and there was an attendant who would only let people into the full parking lot the moment someone had left. So we had to queue up and wait for roughly 10 minutes before we were finally able to park the car.
Coming from Sedona, we only had to go north on Hwy 89A for about 7 miles from the roundabout at the 89A junction with Hwy 179. The signposted turnoff for Slide Rock State Park was on the left. By the way, it should be noted that this aforementioned roundabout seemed to be heavily congested, especially in the afternoon. So that might be something to keep in mind as it might take a bit longer to get to and from Slide Rock and Sedona given the traffic delays.
For context, Sedona was roughly 30 miles (roughly an hour drive) southwest of Flagstaff, 116 miles (about 2 hours drive) north of Phoenix, and 477 miles (about 7 hours drive) east of Los Angeles.
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